I wrote a post a year ago about being single and now I want to dispel the false stereotype of being unmarried in my 30s.
When I was 28-29, I was in a serious relationship. It was a difficult relationship with confusing messages and mixed signals. My then boyfriend and I traveled to interesting places, ate at gourmet restaurants, went to many college football and basketball games (locally and on the road), and watched many of the same television shows. Despite all that, we didn’t connect deeply, either emotionally or physically.
One thing I didn’t get out of this relationship was marriage.
At the time, I was deeply concerned about getting married. Most of my friends were in long-term relationships, discussing engagement rings or actually walking down the aisle (and I was attending or involved in the weddings). This timely trend caught me and I suddenly really wanted to get married. It became my sole mission in the relationship. You see, when I was turning thirty, I envisioned myself on a rocky cliff and saw myself falling from it on my birthday if I wasn’t engaged. It seemed to me that one’s 20s were supposed to be for dating and one’s 30s were supposed to be for marriage, then kids. Well, I turned 30 and didn’t fall. But I had a lot of work to do.
Turns out, I talked about marriage often. I didn’t have the awareness at the time that it was too much until my then boyfriend and I went to couples’ therapy, where he revealed feeling pressured. So I made a deal: I wouldn’t talk about marriage for six weeks and I’d be cool and normal in the relationship. My boyfriend agreed to “have more fun.” Surprisingly, this worked well for both of us.
I had developed some new awareness about myself and realized the reasons I’d been talking about marriage so much was
- a) because it was something all around me and I wanted to fit in
- b) I wanted to know where the boyfriend and I stood
- c) experiential. It was an experience I wanted in my life
- d) talking about marriage was the easier way, in my mind, to discussing “us.”
The therapy stopped, but we didn’t break up with each other for another year and a half. We also didn’t get engaged or married and continued on this unraveling trajectory of a relationship.
When we finally ended our relationship, I did a lot more soul-searching and considered the questions of marriage again. Still, it was something I wanted in my life, but it wasn’t the only thing. I serial dated for a while and had various boyfriends at different levels of intimacy. One boyfriend presented me with an opportunity for an open relationship and promised marriage in 5-10 years. No thanks. One of my boyfriends was so skittish with the word “boyfriend” that I realized we were not even on the same planet and we broke up. Another boyfriend and I never talked about marriage until the day we parted ways and he told me he thought we’d get married.
* * *
So here I am, a woman in Los Angeles, in her late thirties who is still single, unmarried and, ahem, content. One of my close friends and I have discussed this concept many times. We both know women in their 50s and 60s who are not married. When I was in my teens and 20s, I felt so much pity for them. I thought they were lonely spinsters who were still vying for the affections of men. Shame on me.
When I reflect on how I viewed unmarried women, I am so ashamed. I’m one of them. Whoa, it’s a big realization to adjust my thinking and not separate them from me. It’s a we, us now.
Now I see us as strong, independent people who make a choice about how we spend our time, money and hearts. In other words, these women (and men) who’ve opted to wait or have chosen not to get married have made incredible life choices.
These bad ass people have traveled the globe, have been involved in start-ups and amazing careers and have enjoyed extended families and connected circles of friends. All of this means they have chosen freedom and independence. Being unmarried also does not mean we have not had relationships. Many people have been in long partnerships, but haven’t consummated their unions with paperwork, rings or veils.
Overall, I see marriage as a lovely choice for many and a stifling contract for others. How do I feel? Truth be told, and for years I was ashamed to admit this, I want to be married in my lifetime. There, I said it and didn’t dissolve. (I have had bouts of embarrassment when admitting that I’d like to be married.) Marriage is something I want for myself and I’m willing to wait for the right person who feels the same.
Another aspect to why I’m not married (and I covered this in my piece entitled “Why Are You STILL Single?”) is I haven’t met the right person to marry yet.
Do I worry I’ll be alone for the rest of my life? Of course. To put it boldly, there have been days I wish I had a husband, and not a boyfriend, roommate or best friend, to discuss matters big and small. The thought of “will I be alone forever?” has crossed my mind more times than I care to count. It shows up especially when I see couples engaging with a decision and realizing they have each other. It also shows up when I fantasize about a type of relationship I long for.
So, why have I waited? Well, mostly because I haven’t wanted to marry the wrong person and many of my relationships haven’t been intimate enough for marriage. I have big fears about divorce and what that means (failure, rejection, bad choices, timing and willingness and simply growing apart). Some of my friends have split up and remarried. They report the dissolution of their marriages as angering, challenging, sad, feeling rejection, etc., etc. Yet, I also see them growing from divorce (though this is trite because we grow from all of our experiences).
I’ve considered settling, but I don’t have the constitution for that. It never works for me to “grin and bear it.” So, “single, dating, seeing someone, in a relationship” is the land where I’ve resided. There have been struggles big and small over the fact that I’m unmarried. Just when I feel I’ve made headway about my own unmarried life, insecurities or another negative thought may crop up.
So what do I do? Well, I used to panic and have tearful sessions with my coach. Now, I’m more detached. I have an unwavering belief that my person is coming. Do I feel impatient? Often, yes. But impatience doesn’t get me far. Do I ever feel insecure or sad that I’m alone or unmarried? Yes. I have had thoughts of being too much of this and not enough of that. The self-doubt gets intense in these moments.
How do I handle those moments? I consult with a few trusted sources (like my coach, who’s expressed that this is normal and she also felt this way). I may cry or complain. I do more yoga or go for a run. Then, I pause to breathe and remember what I do have. The gratitude holds me over until the next time. And I’m okay.
To work through dating and marriage questions, please contact me. Here are a few other pieces you may want to read: (Communication With) Men, How Long Does It Take to Fall In Love? and Nighttime anxiety.